With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.
Recent media reports have highlighted that public water supplies increasingly contain potentially harmful pollutants. Some of these pollutants are naturally occurring, while others result from human activities. Here are five of the most common pollutants found in drinking water.
This heavy metal can find its way into water supplies through industrial waste leaching Arsenic into the groundwater. Arsenic can also be found in bottled water, which is sourced from the same public drinking water supplies. Arsenic is associated with a number of health issues including cancer, heart damage, nervous system problems, and congenital disabilities.
While this may seem strange, as fluoride is often added to toothpaste and mouthwash, but it can actually create water quality issues. Although small quantities of fluoride can be beneficial to reduce tooth decay, in larger concentrations, it is highly toxic. Exposure to larger fluoride quantities can result in dental fluorosis, poisoning, and even death. Fluoride is also a suspected carcinogen, and it may even cause damage to the heart. In North America, water and processed drinks account for up to 75% of fluoride intake. Ideally, fluoride levels should not exceed 0.7 mg per litre.
Chromium 6 is a known carcinogen found in dozens of cities in the 2010 Environmental Working Group study. Chromium causes some terrible health issues, including liver failure, stomach cancer, renal failure, premature dementia, and contact dermatitis. It can be introduced into groundwater supplies from manufacturing processes including producing mortar, leather goods, and paint.
Radioactive particles can be easily spread through water systems into the ecosystem. Uranium concentrations are carefully monitored as elevated levels can cause thyroid cancer, kidney damage, and increased risk of developing other types of cancer. Radioactive particles often occur near nuclear power plants, but they can occur naturally. Radioactivity is cumulative, building up in the body over time, and the primary exposure method is from drinking contaminated water.
Lead has been a prominent water quality issue in recent years as older solder, lead pipes and paint fail. Lead paint chips can be introduced into water supplies after heavy rainfalls or when older lead plumbing pipes start to fail. Lead was banned back in the 1980s due to the health issues from exposure, including seizures, anemia, and nervous system interference in young children.
These are just some of the most common water pollutants, and your water quality may be compromised by others. Fortunately, there are a number of domestic water treatment systems that can be used to address water contaminant issues. If you have concerns about your water quality, the first step is to have your water tested. Lab testing will confirm the levels of possible contaminants in your water supply to allow you to configure a treatment system to suit the specific characteristics of your water.
If you would like assistance checking your water quality, be sure to speak to a water treatment professional, who can arrange water testing and guide you through the treatment options.